Winning Isn't Everything

It's a gross understatement to say that the United Auto Workers union was disappointed with last fall's defeat at the Nissan Motor Mfg. Corp. plant in Smyrna, TN. Now, the union has its sights on Honda America Mfg. Inc. in Ohio — another Japanese-based auto maker that the UAW has failed in past attempts to organize.

In Marysville recently, the UAW opened a second office from which to recruit the 5,800 employees who assemble Hondas and Acuras. The union must collect signature cards from 30% of the workforce to hold a vote. Bob King, the UAW's vice president of national organizing, isn't saying how close the union is to the threshold.

Win or lose, King says the union, by virtue of the perceived threat to management, is ultimately fulfilling its mission to improve the lives of plant workers with every organizing drive.

“With Nissan, we lost that election big, but those workers got profit sharing for the first time, they got more money invested in ergonomics, they had a number of positive changes, and they'll see more improvements by the company,” King says in a recent interview with WAW (see story, p.31).

Likewise at Toyota Motor Mfg. in Georgetown, KY, and DaimlerChrysler AG's Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance, AL, King says organizing drives resulted in raises of $1.50 and $2 an hour, respectively.

At Nissan, King says the union made a compelling argument that UAW members at the Mitsubishi Motor Mfg. of America plant in Normal, IL, and the New United Motor Mfg. Inc. plant in Fremont, CA, are way ahead of their Nissan counterparts on the wage scale. But in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, King concedes that Nissan employees were less willing to take chances.